Graham Zusi and Lionel Messi - U.S. MNT vs. Argentina - June 21, 2016
USA Today Sports Images

Recap: Graham Zusi and U.S. MNT fall to Argentina in Copa America Centenario semifinals

The United States Men’s National Team’s commendable run in Copa America Centenario came to an end Tuesday with a 4-0 semifinal defeat to Lionel Messi and Argentina.

Sporting Kansas City winger Graham Zusi earned his first start of the tournament, playing 90 minutes and collecting his 40th cap before a sold-out crowd of 70,858 at NRG Stadium in Houston. His club teammate Matt Besler was an unused substitute as the U.S. conceded goals to Messi, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Gonzalo Higuain (two) in a one-sided affair.

The result sends the Americans to Saturday’s Third Place match at The University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, where they will meet the loser of Wednesday’s semifinal between Chile and Colombia. That game will kick off at 7 p.m. CT on FX, Univision and Univision Deportes. Argentina advances to the Copa America Centenario Final on Sunday at MetLife Stadium near New York City.

No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District will continue its Copa America watch party special this weekend, offering a complimentary appetizer to those who sign up and order any beer pitcher.

Argentina wasted no time showing why they are the world’s top ranked team, grabbing the lead after just three minutes. Fabian Johnson’s attempted clearance on the edge of the box rolled kindly to Messi 25 yards from goal in a central position. The Barcelona talisman showed his quality with a fine chip over the U.S. backline to Lavezzi, who cushioned a short-range header past Brad Suzan to give La Albiceleste a dream start.

Messi conjured more magic with a breathtaking free kick in the 32nd minute, becoming Argentina’s all-time leading scorer with his 55th international goal. Positioned seven yards outside the penalty area, Messi picked out the far right corner with a sublime strike that curled over the wall and into the side-netting off the underside of the crossbar.

U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann responded to the 2-0 halftime deficit by replacing forward Chris Wondolowski with 17-year-old starlet Christian Pulisic. The attacking substitution came four minutes before the U.S. fell further behind, with Higuain tapping home from five yards after his initial effort was blocked by Guzan. Higuain then bagged his brace in the 86th minute, finishing a breakaway feed from Messi to complete the scoring.

The U.S. will look to secure its best-ever Copa America finish on Saturday, having finished fourth at the 1995 tournament. Zusi and Besler are in contention to feature along with the trio of players who served a one-game suspension Tuesday — Alejandro Bedoya, Jermaine Jones and Bobby Wood. Argentina, meanwhile, aims to win the country’s first Copa America title since 1993 on Sunday.


Tuesday, June 21 USA 0-4 Argentina 8 p.m. FS1, Univision, UDN NRG Stadium
Houston, TX
Wednesday, June 22 Chile vs. Colombia 7 p.m. FS1, Univision, UDN Soldier Field
Chicago, IL
Saturday, June 25 Third Place: USA vs. TBD 7 p.m. FX, Univision, UDN University of Phoenix Stadium
Glendale, AZ
Sunday, June 26 Final: Argentina vs. TBD 7 p.m. FS1, Univision, UDN MetLife Stadium
East Rutherford, NJ